D’var Torah: May 13, 2016

Dear Friends,

What is the meaning of life? It’s surely not a simple question, as philosophers have been debating this since the beginning of critical thought. But our Torah provides us with a simple answer. If you were to take the entire Torah and unroll it and (heaven forbid) fold it in half, you would arrive at this week’s Torah portion, Parshat K’doshim. The main message of this parshah at the center of the Torah is contained in Leviticus 19:2: “You shall be holy, for I, the ETERNAL your G-d, and holy.”

Holy means set apart for a sacred purpose. Our tradition teaches us that we are supposed to be partners with God in tikkun olam – repairing our world, making it a better place. That is, essentially, our sacred purpose. That is how we work towards holiness. Every person is born with unique gifts, passions, and interests. If we can bring these attributes to the table, if we can use those talents to make the world better than it was when we found it, then we have found a way to partner with God in tikkun olam, used our lives for a sacred purpose – we have found a way to be holy.

When I work with students in finding a project for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, we explore what their passions are and how they can be brought to a mitzvah project. I often think about how as adults, we sometimes miss the opportunity to bring holiness into our lives through the very things that we love to do. Passionate about making music? Perform at a nursing home. Interested in computers? Teach others how to use them. Love to read? Volunteer at your library. Perhaps the meaning of life is in taking the things that give you joy and imbuing them with the sacred, using what makes you unique to leave your mark.

And here’s some musical inspiration for you: I Was Here by Kristin Chenoweth

Shabbat Shalom,

Cantor Sally L. Neff